A New Flowering – poppies amongst the desert loving plants

This weekend in Alice Springs ANZAC Hill is the centre of a ceremony of sacred significance to a great number of people. This year’s centenary of the fighting which gave us ANZAC Day has been identified as the bloody event which – more than any other bloody battle – marks the formation of Australia as a fair dinkum nation, rather than a collection of British colonies.

The blood red poppy is the plant which, in our collective imaginations, has come to represent the loss of life and other forms of real sacrifice which this bloody birth required. Perhaps for this reason rosemary is sidelined from the striking ANZAC displays.

The Alice Spring RSL is located on a back road at the foot of ANZAC Hill away from the central business area, on Schwarz Crescent .

The RSL HQ just happens to be about the closest building to the sacred place which, according to the booklet by David Brooks, Arrernte people consider to be the real central point of Mparntwe – an area known as Tyuretye (Choritja). This area is part of a complex of sacred features from what we know as the Dreamtime.

Schwartz Crescent crosses the Todd River (Lhere Mparntwe) near a site – Atnelkentyarliweke Athirnte – associated with the Dreaming Caterpillars. ANZAC Hill itself is part of the Dreaming complex, with two Arrernte names Untyeye-artwilye and Atnelkentyarliweke, which relate to Corkwood and Caterpillar Dreamings.

In other words, on this very special ANZAC Day weekend, in the very centre of Australia we have a situation where the hearts of two sacred life-narratives exist side by side – but with little real communication between the two.

Picture – looking at Atnelkentyarliweke Athirnte and Alice Springs RSL



I am told that four indigenous horsemen will ride in the ANZAC parade on Saturday, with 12 others leading horses.

All very good. But when I visited ANZAC Hill this morning (Friday 24 April) I noticed that the team of indigenous workmen (about a dozen or so) putting up protective scaffolding around the monument had the letter B on their work vests and were being overseen by a prison official. He mentioned to me, after I asked where the poppy display was, that this work would ‘keep the prisoners happy’.

“Just how happy?” I wondered. I sensed I was not to talk with these men, although I did say hullo as I walked past. They were outside, yes, but this was not time for ‘visitors’

I gained a sense of what a guard – a friendly chap – of prisoners of war might say in an occupied country. And a sense of what an everyday citizen, myself, might accept as normal something which is far from it. It is not normal.


Some of the crew of HMAS Arunta have come to Alice Springs/Mparntwe for the special ceremony – a long way from the ocean in any direction for the navy – in recognition of the ship’s name. Arunta is an earlier spelling of Aranda which has in turn given way (for some) to Arrernte.

I am not sure what the crew of HMAS Warramunga are doing. Warumungu people live in the Tennant Creek area 500km up the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs.

Both Arunta/Arrernte and Warramunga/Warumungu people were made world famous by the writings of early anthropologists such as Spencer, Gillen and (in German) Carl Strehlow at the start of the 20th century. Spencer and Gillen conducted fieldwork at the Alice Springs and Tennant Creek Telegraph Station in 1901 – the same year the Commonwealth of Australia came into existence.

Those hard-working ethnographers, mentored by senior Arrernte and Warumungu lawmen, documented a great deal of the sacred lives of First Peoples in Central Australia. But the great importance of their work – as a means of learning how to better relate between two peoples – has been neglected by non-indigenous Australian decision-makers and everyday people for over a century. Ditto the work of pioneer women ethnographers such as Daisy Bates (in W.A.) and Olive Pink.

There is still only one system of law in the Anglo- Australian system of governance – and that is law based on what is at home in Westminster on the other side of the planet. Virtually no non-indigenous Australian knows anything of the original languages of this country, let alone has a real understanding of the cultures of First Peoples.


If the events of April 1915 marked the birth of a much larger sense of ‘nationhood’ then I argue that – with the passing of 100 years – it is now time for that new form of life to move away from its long adolescence and to grow into some real maturity.

First Peoples here remain captives of a one-sided modern nation-state. Two-laws is not allowed. We still do not recognise the sacredness of the original life in this country. We need to learn to do exactly that. It is not a divisive either/or situation. We need a healing both-and approach.

While (like Sam Neil!) I am opposed to nationalism I firmly believe that the best way to gain respect for this countries First Peoples and their Ways is to respect what is held sacred by those who, still, are unaware of this country’s original living cultures. Hence respect for those whose lives were sacrificed defending country (even if it was part of a curious form of European madness).

But after the parade is over, another real challenge presents itself. That challenge is to bring this country to a new stage of maturity.

As part of the ANZAC centenary ceremony, local people have handcrafted a large number of red poppies which have been incorporated into a large sign “Lest we forget”.

The many hand-made poppies on the northern side of ANZAC Hill, which make up the large LEST WE FORGET display, can be seen as symbolic of the split blood given in sacrifice. The poppy is not native to this area and I always associate it with Europe (the fields of Flanders?).

Picture of some of the Alice Springs hand-made poppies on the L of Lest We Forget



I was struck when walking up the southern side of the same hill by the extent of small Eremophila bushes – forms of native fuchsias. Eremophila means ‘desert loving’ – they sure survive in hard places. I think the plants I saw on ANZAC Hill may have been the Rock fuchsia, Eremophila freelingii.

Picture – the small shrubs are (I think) Arrethe – Eremophila freelingii


Nearly all Eremophila – which are found only in Australia (with one introduced in New Zealand/Aotearoa?) – seem to be associated with healing characteristics.

One of the species of Eremophila (longifolia) has been said to be one of the most importance – sacred – plants for Arrernte and other First Peoples in the Centre. Peter Latz records that E longifilia is called utnerrenge in Eastern Arrernte and is also called “Emu Bush”.

Why utnerrenge (aka Emu Bush) should be of such sacred importance is a mystery to me. You need to be initiated into First Peoples Ways (and look after your relatives) to learn more about such matters. It is easy to overlook these plants if your eye is not in the key of Eremophila shrubs, and you are looking instead for the more striking landmarks.

Earlier in the week I had been up the southern side of ANZAC Hill and not even seen this shrub. After a few days at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden I had learnt to pick it out. Retracing my steps up the hill today, I was amazed at the extent of this Rock Fuchsia bush. Sometimes it takes time for the scales to fall off our eyes and we begin to see our true surroundings for what they are. (Hey, those scrawny gnarled Corkwoods are sacred too!)

It struck me that the native fuchsias formed a ‘naturally occurring’ counterpoint to the display of artificial poppies on the other (northern) side of the hill. But it is not really ‘natural’ since everything in this country is related to the practices of First Peoples and their cosmic maintenance practices. In other words, both the poppy and Rock Fuchsia displays are cultural – the former of recent origin and the latter from time immemorial.

Peter Latz writes that the Rock Fuchsia – Eremophila freelingii – is called arrethe in Arrernte. In addition to its medicinal uses, “… the attractive flowers are sometimes placed in headbands for decorative purposes during ceremonies.”

The only country I would willingly risk my life for is one where those of wear arrethe in their headbands are included, as senior siblings, with proud poppy and rosemary wearers in ceremonies of floral displays of who we – collectively – are.

That is, a new two-sided and balanced sense of identity … presently in the process of becoming just as desert-loving plants flower after the long drought.

Bruce (Japaljari) Reyburn

Mparntwe/Alice Springs April 2015.



To obtain resources for learning Central Australian language check out the various Picture Dictionaries at www.iadpress.com (under Language) – they come with audio files in language located on the IAD website.



David Brooks for Mparntwe People “A town like Mparntwe – a guide to the Dreaming tracks and sites of Alice Springs” Jukurrpa books IAD Press Alice Springs

Peter Latz 1995 “Bushfires & Bushtucker – Aboriginal plant use in Central Australia” IAD Press Alice Springs

Google up Eremophila











Barkly Regional Council (NT) – funding cuts hit young indigenous people

Barkly Regional Council

MEDIA RELEASE 10 March 2015

Young people pay the price in Indigenous funding cuts

Fixing dire Indigenous disadvantage was one of Tony Abbott’s personal priorities in his preelection Promises.

Last week the Prime Minister’s Indigenous vision to close the gap became blurrier as Barkly
Regional Council (BRC) had jobs slashed across its youth, workplace and environmental
programs under the Federal Government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) funding.

Barkly Regional Council provides services across the second largest local government region
in Australia to predominantly Aboriginal residents who directly rely on council at the

Critical to this success is the workforce, a scarce resource already, which builds bridges to
develop indigenous capacity, employment in the workplace and health and wellbeing.
“Our youth development has been completely shattered,” says BRC President Barb Shaw.

“Twenty-seven Aboriginal jobs are now on the line. What will this do for the 500 kids across
the region, aged from 5 – 15, that use our services everyday? Who will help them if we go?”

Following the Abbott Government’s election 18 months ago, Mr Abbott drafted the
Indigenous Affairs portfolio into the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and
under his control.

He announced new targets to close the gap, offering five main pillars, the key three pillars
being: getting to work, getting children to school and making communities safe.

“We know the reality of creating meaningful Indigenous employment,” said President Shaw. “Last year Council delivered a successful Language, Literacy and Numeracy pilot project to help develop speaking, reading, writing and basic maths skills for council staff in one of the region’s remote communities.

“No funding in this area now means we cannot roll the project out across our other communities and that literacy and numeracy training support, which is fundamental to improving the chances of Indigenous workers in the region getting and keeping a job, has been cut off at the knees.”

Last week, Canberra finally announced the number of organisations set to share $860
million in grants under the new IAS funding and application process.

Barkly Regional Council was notified that through the IAS it will receive 35 per cent less of its previous budget to deliver frontline community services.

Council received funding for Night Patrol, the School Nutrition Program, Elliott Community
Radio and Elliott Playgroup, but youth development, workforce development and animal
management applications were not supported.

“The Prime Minister said last year, “it is profoundly shocking that innocent people should be
held hostage by an armed person claiming political motivation”,” said President Shaw.
“He was of course referring to the Sydney café siege gunman but in light of the funding cuts
it appears Mr Abbott, whose government is armed with cash, is holding Aboriginal
disadvantage hostage for political gain.”

The new IAS strategy, consolidating more than 150 programs, grants and activities, has seen
$534 million cut from Indigenous programs administered by the Prime Minister and Cabinet
and Health portfolios.

In Federal Parliament, Labor Senator Nova Peris asked Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel
Scullion if he stood by his claim the Government’s decision to cut $500m from Indigenous
funding would not have an impact on frontline services.

“What is Scullion’s plan?” said President Shaw. “Is this just political recycling? Is the Abbott
government just defunding one area because they can’t address the failures in the Remote
Jobs and Communities Plan (RJCP)?”

“This should be about real jobs and the meaningful journey to get there, not just slash and
burn. Are they trying to close down the bush by stealth?”

President Shaw said that while the council is very grateful to the Commonwealth
Government for receiving a proportion of its funding submission when so many missed out,
“it is disappointing that key programs for health and wellbeing have been slashed or have
not been funded at all, especially for young people”.

“This funding is critical to retaining jobs on the ground across the region. So any loss in
funding has a direct job equivalent loss for the bush and its communities,” she said.

The Barkly Regional Council is heavily reliant on grants for local jobs and this news will
impact youth, workplace and environmental management areas, ensuring job numbers and
opportunities for Indigenous people go backwards.


COAG – Terms of Reference – Senior Officers Working Group Indigenous land investigation

From DPMC website:

COAG Investigation into Indigenous land administration and use

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) announced on 10 October 2014 that it would conduct an urgent investigation into Indigenous land administration and use, to enable traditional owners to readily attract private sector investment and finance to develop their own land with new industries and businesses to provide jobs and economic advancement for Indigenous people.

The Investigation is an opportunity to focus all governments’ attention on how Indigenous land administration systems and processes can effectively support Indigenous land owners to leverage their land assets for economic development.

Terms of Reference – Senior Officers Working Group

The Senior Officers Working Group will focus its investigation and advice on improving the Indigenous land legislative, regulatory, administrative and operational systems and processes to:
1. enable Indigenous land owners to derive economic benefits from their land
2. enable jobs and economic advancement for Indigenous peoples
3. enable Indigenous home ownership and commercial enterprise
4. attract private sector investment and finance
5. develop industries and businesses support service delivery and infrastructure investment.

The Senior Officers Working Group will:

1. work with the Expert Indigenous Working Group to identify issues and develop options for COAG’s consideration
2. consult with key stakeholder groups including land councils, native title organisations, traditional owners, native title ministers, industry associations and financial institutions
3. consider, including with the Expert Indigenous Working Group, and report on proposals raised by native title ministers
4. provide a report to the first COAG meeting of 2015.

Expert Indigenous Working Group

Mr Wayne Bergmann (Chair)

Mr Brian Wyatt (Deputy Chair)

Mr Djawa Yunupingu

Ms Shirley McPherson

Ms Valerie Cooms

Mr Craig Cromelin

Mr Murrandoo Yanner



Ideological Battleground 2015 – Indigenous ‘land use’ vis-a-vis ‘development’ and private property.

The long ethnocidal war against this country’s First Peoples is shaping up for another chapter.

A key field of this war will take place in what we are encouraged to regard as the self-governing Northern Territory of the Commonwealth of Australia (First Peoples living countries) and extended into other parts of the country.

This ‘chapter’ is being carried out by powerful others, quick to proclaim (English only) they are working in the interests of First Peoples.

The powerful ‘others’ involved in this consists of some key players and a cast of many extras. So far, some of the key players amongst the ‘others’ include:

* the Council of Australian Governments;
* the County-Liberal Party Chief Minister of the Northern Territory;
* the Country Liberal Party Senator for the Northern Territory;
* the CEO the Northern Land Council;
* a Human Rights Commissioner

* And, just announced, a panel of indigenous land use ‘experts’ for the CoAG investigation. How and by whom they are selected is not clear.

Excluded from this high level discourse are the community voices of First Peoples at a local and regional level. As a result of past and present Australian government deliberate policies there is no properly resourced Australia wide representative body.

As things presently stand, we are unlikely to directly hear the voices of the senior lawpeople of those First Peoples.

Nor will we be hearing about how mainstream Western notions of development and exclusive ownership need to be reformed in light of First Peoples core values. We will hear much about how First Peoples Way have to be ‘reformed’ (yet again) to better comply with mainstream Western notions. The lives of First Peoples have been regarded as the playthings of Anglo-Australian governments for so long it is regarded as ‘normal’.

Nor is it likely that First Peoples voices will be accurately represented in either the mainstream or much of the alternative media. This is the chorus from the cast of many extras, singing very different songs to those of First Peoples, but in tune with their Western cultural master narratives.

Songlines will endeavour, during this year, to provide some informed commentary on this ‘reform’ process from a perspective which does not align solely with culturally one-sided mainstream Western norms and normas, but does not purport to represent the views of First Peoples.

If, better still, we can provide a conduit for their voices, we will.

Bruce (Japaljari) Reyburn
22 Feb 2012

“Expert Group Appointed to Indigenous Land Inquiry” Minister for Indigenous Affairs

Media Release
Minister for Indigenous Affairs
Senator the Hon. Nigel Scullion
Leader of the Nationals in the Senate Country Liberals Senator for the Northern Territory

Friday 20 February 2015

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, who is leading a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) investigation into Indigenous land administration and use, has invited an Expert Indigenous Working Group to guide the work of the inquiry.

Minister Scullion said the group will work with the Commonwealth, state and territory governments on the Investigation and ensure that policy directions and proposals are developed with the involvement of Indigenous stakeholders.

“The Expert Indigenous Working Group will be chaired by Mr Wayne Bergmann who brings with him a wealth of experience in native title and economic development,” Minister Scullion said.

“The Group will also include Mr Brian Wyatt, Ms Valerie Cooms, Mr Murrandoo Yanner, Ms Shirley McPherson, Mr Djawa Yunupingu and Mr Craig Cromelin.

“Together they will be drawing on their expertise and knowledge throughout this investigation of Indigenous land administration and use.
“I also welcome ideas from all Indigenous stakeholders to support this work and the Group will also meet with Indigenous stakeholders as part of their consultations.”

Minister Scullion said the investigation will focus all governments’ attention on getting the settings right to support Indigenous land owners and native title holders to leverage their land assets for economic development as part of the mainstream economy.

“Indigenous land and native title is a foundation for Indigenous economic development,” he said.

“This investigation will consider what action is needed to ensure the land administration system assists Indigenous land owners and native title holders to use land to pursue their social, cultural and economic aspirations.”

“I have asked the Working Group to focus on opportunities to improve land administration under existing legislative arrangements and I maintain my commitment to not change the Northern Territory Land Rights Act unless supported by the Land Councils.”

The investigation terms of reference for the Investigation, and information about the Expert Indigenous Working Group, can be found at https://www.dpmc.gov.au/indigenous- affairs/about/jobs-land-and-economy-programme/coag-land-investigation.


(link to terms of reference did not work for me. Have reported problem. Songlines)

NLC and CLC media statement – Abbott govt indigenous land use investigation

“Keep Indigenous land investigation ideology-free
Posted: Fri, February 20, 2015

THE Northern Territory’s two big land councils have called on the Abbott government to base its investigation into indigenous land use on facts rather than ideology.

“For the sake of the most disadvantaged indigenous Australians we call on the Abbott government to rise above its demonstrated dislike of evidence based policy development,” CLC Director, David Ross, and NLC CEO, Joe Morrison, said in a joint statement.

“We hope the indigenous working group announced today will challenge the myths being peddled by NT Country Liberal Party ideologues about hard-won Aboriginal land rights supposedly holding up development in remote communities. We are certainly keen to work constructively to develop solutions to real barriers to economic development.”

Mr Ross and Mr Morrison called for experts on the Aboriginal Land Rights Act to be added to the expert Indigenous working group.

“Much of this inquiry is about the land councils’ area of expertise: the Aboriginal Land Rights Act that applies only here in the Northern Territory. We are very disappointed that the government has not included anyone with technical knowledge of the legislation.”

Mr Ross and Mr Morrison said it was not encouraging that the terms of reference for the investigation were developed without Indigenous input
“While we’re hearing a lot about the new, more consultative Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs the reality on the ground is more of the same old top-down approach.”

Both land councils took little comfort from Minister Scullion’s assurance today that he would not change the Land Rights Act without the consent of the land councils.

“What the Minister has been trying but failing to do is to hollow out our land rights with the help of Howard-era provisions in the Land Rights Act that are ideologically driven, unworkable and would greatly increase uncertainty for Traditional Owners, third parties and businesses.”

source http://www.nlc.org.au/media-releases/article/keep-indigenous-land-investigation-ideology-free/